Prison Libraries

Supermax Prison: Obama's Books Objectionable

(AP) Ahmed Omar Abu Ali is serving a 30-year sentence at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colo., for joining al-Qaida and plotting to assassinate then-President George W. Bush. Last year, Abu Ali requested two books written by Obama: "Dreams from My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope."

His request was denied. Prison officials, citing guidance from the FBI, determined that passages in both books contain information that could damage national security.

The rejections, as well as other restrictions on family visits, prompted a hunger strike by Abu Ali that has since ended, his lawyer Joshua Dratel wrote.

Thanks Infodiva Librarian for the tip.

ACLU Protests Banning of Religious Works at Prison Libraries

The American Civil Liberties Union today filed formal comments opposing a proposed rule by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) that would illegally empower prison officials to ban vital religious works from prison chapel libraries, despite a law passed last year prohibiting them from doing so. The proposed rule, which would allow material to be banned based on a mere determination that it "could…suggest" violence or criminal behavior, directly contradicts the Second Chance Act which places strict limits on what material BOP officials may outlaw.

The ACLU’s comments, which have been signed by a diverse coalition of religious organizations including the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the American Jewish Congress and Muslim Advocates, were submitted for consideration to BOP’s Office of General Counsel.

Additional coverage from the NYTimes.

University Park leaders to mull SMU agreement for Bush library, expansion

University Park leaders to mull SMU agreement for Bush library, expansion
University Park leaders tonight will consider an agreement with SMU that will bring the entities one step closer to the transfer of city land earmarked for school expansion and the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

King's County WA County Does Away With Jail Librarians

Self-help books, best-sellers, graphic novels and history -- these are among the popular books with inmates at the King County Jail.

But beginning in January, it won't be a librarian making the deliveries. Instead inmates, working under the supervision of a corrections officer, will be handing out the books.

The county's Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention will save about $240,000 annually by ending its contract with the King County Library System, which historically has provided librarians and a collection of books for the jail's inmates.

"It wasn't an efficient use of their money," said Nancy Smith, director of outreach services for the library system. Seattle P.I. reports.

Walsh: Don't be miserly with books

In make believe, prison books usually are diversions - a Bible carved out to hide the rock hammer in "The Shawshank Redemption" or a field guide full of clues about The Company in "Prison Break."
In real life, prisoners actually read.
And one civil rights attorney says Utah's Department of Corrections is profiting from inmates' craving for the written word.
Since 2004, the state has had an exclusive contract with Barnes & Noble to sell books to prisoners. The Department of Corrections' commissary charges a $1 processing fee and pockets the difference between what inmates pay and what the bookseller charges.
Attorney Brian Barnard calls it "profiteering."

Full article here.

Prison Librarian Lights the Way

Dennice Alexander is the first full-time administrator to oversee the libraries within Arkansas state prison system, which holds more than 14,000 inmates spread among 20 locations. Prior to taking the position Alexander, 61, had never visited a prison.

For the longest time, advisory boards held sway over what books made it inside the double razor-wired fences. But, in recent years, Alexander has approved the books and magazines that bring light inside a system once deemed by federal courts to be a "dark and evil world."

"They're trying to rehabilitate themselves," Alexander said. "We have (prisoners) leaving everyday and some of them have been in since they were 17, 16, and now they're 35 and 40. The world has changed, so they don't know about Internet or banking."

Alexander receives only $20,000 a year to purchase books, magazines and newspapers for inmates. And she's working to create late fees for overdue books, possibly charging an inmate's commissary account if a borrowed book stays out past two weeks. As much as 90 per cent of all books in circulation at the prison units come from donations.

Drag Queen Arguments @ Your Library

This one turned up in one of my email alerts today, it's from the Lake Oswego (Oregon) Police Blotter:

8/14/08 4:33 p.m. An argument broke out between a drag queen and another patron in the parking lot of the library.

Electronic Library for the Blair County [PA] Prison?

A big change is proposed for the Blair County [PA] Prison. It may soon be a easier for inmates to do legal research. The Commissioners in Hollidaysburg say they have a number of good reasons to change the law library in the county's lock up. Chief among them, the move is expected to save this county a lot of money.

No Ordinary Personage, This Librarian

Most prison librarians are hardworking and dedicated, but not many have received what Sue Wilkinson, librarian at Winson Green Prison in Birmingham UK, just received; the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, or MBE, a British order of chivalry established by King George V in 1917.

According to the Evesham Journal, the recipient is quite pleased particularly since 2008 is the National Year of Reading in Britain.

Publisher Drops Book Ban Lawsuit Against Mass. Prisons

State prison officials have decided to allow a publisher of legal self-help books to distribute its materials in Massachusetts prisons.
The decision comes after mail-order publisher Prison Legal News sued Department of Correction Commissioner Harold Clarke. The Seattle-based publisher claimed Clarke was banning its publications in state prisons by refusing to add it to a list of approved vendors who can send books to prisoners.

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